Jurassic World Dominion has a lot riding on it. At least for me, personally.
Like pretty much every kid who grew up in the 90s, I was enamored with the original Jurassic Park. My sisters and I would quote the movie endlessly and repeatedly act out certain scenes. Trust me, we’ve shaken our fair share of Jell-O while pretending to stare at some awful beast creeping around the corner.
And that original movie not only ignited my passion and curiosity for dinosaurs, it also introduced me to the genius of author Michael Crichton. Crichton’s work and interviews have had a significant impact on my life and how I view the world. He was always ahead of the curve – eerily predicting trends long before they became mainstream. Whether related to the potential harms of genetic experimentation, the threat of AI, or the hubris of mankind in general to ever fool itself into believing it has the ability to harness and control nature.
I often wonder how Michael Crichton would react if he were still alive to watch the Jurassic World series.
Honestly, he probably wouldn’t care for them too much. Apparently, he never even took the time to watch Jurassic Park III. Which makes sense, he seemed to like to finish projects and move on. The only reason he ever revisited Jurassic Park with his first and only sequel The Lost World was due to Steven Spielberg’s insistence.
Still, despite whatever Crichton would or wouldn’t have thought of the latest chapters in the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World saga, I’ve found all of the films in the series to be consistently entertaining, if nothing else. It goes without saying that absolutely nothing tops the 1993 original, but you generally can rest assured you’re in for a good time whenever you visit an entry in the Jurassic series.
That said, the series has had its low points. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was the lowest point in the entire combined series for me. Truth be told, Fallen Kingdom had me a bit concerned about Dominion.
Points of Concern for Jurassic World Dominion
Colin Trevorrow returning to direct felt like a mixed bag, too. His work on the first Jurassic World entry was strong enough. A bit cheesy, but overall good. However, his influence didn’t exactly seem to help other Jurassic projects, like Fallen Kingdom or Camp Cretaceous. The fact he was also involved with clunkers in the modern Star Wars franchise, like the awful Rise of the Skywalker , wasn’t exactly reassuring either.
It’s a bit of a cliche to point out now, but the last Star Wars trilogy pretty much embodies everything wrong with cynical modern reboots of classic series. Especially when you consider the way Star Wars handled its original cast members and characters like Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. I didn’t want to see Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcom suffer similar fates in Dominion. Nowadays, even when the original actors of iconic film characters are brought back to reprise their roles, it’s no guarantee the characters will be given their actual due.
What Dominion Gets Right
Having now watched it, I am relieved to report that the characters were done justice (for the most part). Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler especially. And I was impressed with just how much of a highlight of the film they are and how much screen time they were given. They weren’t a mere afterthought.
Dr. Ian Malcom said a few things I don’t imagine Michael Crichton would have ever supported him saying, and seeing as Crichton based Ian Malcom partly off of his own personality, that rubbed me the wrong way a bit. But those moments were few and far between. On the whole, the characters were the same ones we grew up with and watching them reunite on the big screen after all these years, and to be treated as respectfully as they were, just felt downright amazing if not surreal. You could still feel the chemistry between the actors and actresses on set. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum knocked it out of the park.
As did Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing, and Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood. It was oddly satisfying watching these Jurassic World characters crossover with Jurassic Park characters. It felt natural. It felt right.
Even brand new characters like pilot Kayla Watts, portrayed by DeWanda Wise, fit right in. She’s a welcome addition to the cast, along with the villain who *spoiler alert* is implied to be the infamous Dodgson, the CEO of Biosyn Genetics, a rival company of InGen from the original film.
That callback to the original film was by no means the only one. Dominion goes out of its way to remind us of scenes, characters, and easter eggs from the original Jurassic Park. The soundtrack, composed by Michael Giacchino, does an admirable job of tapping into John Williams’ timeless score as well. There is so much fan service in this film, it’s almost unreal. But honestly, I loved it. I never felt it was cheap or insincere.
In fact, those callbacks felt like the least cheap and insincere moments in the film. If anything, the parts that felt the most out of place were the very modernized action scenes that seemed more like something out of Fast & Furious than either Jurassic Park or Jurassic World. (It should come as no surprise there have been serious talks about an actual Fast & Furious/Jurassic World crossover.)
Don’t get me wrong, I thought the *spoiler alert* Atrociraptor motorcycle chase scene was thrilling. It was just as action-packed as anything in the latest James Bond movie. But it didn’t feel like a Jurassic movie. And yes, I know there was a raptor/motorcycle chase in Jurassic World. I’m just saying, as enthralling as this new caper might be, it just hits different.
Where Dominion Stumbles
Speaking of the action, there’s so much kinetic energy going on in this film, it can be somewhat difficult to follow along. I mean, the plot is unapologetically mind-numbingly stupid and contrived, and there are so many convenient things that happen just because, you don’t often have time to question any of it. But in retrospect, it is rather bothersome. The plot of Jurassic Park III looks like Shakespeare by comparison. I mean, sure, Jurassic World itself pushed the limits of believability and tested our collective suspension of disbelief, what with the apex predator Indominus Rex that could blend in with its environment like a chameleon, but this – THIS takes it to a whole new level.
Trust me, you will be biting your tongue a fair bit during Dominion. Even if you, like me, go into the movie fully aware that the series plays fast and loose with the rules, you might be offended at how over the top it is. I personally wasn’t, but it came close. Had it not been for the goodwill generated by the original cast, I probably would’ve lost my patience with it at times. It certainly didn’t help that I was under the false impression there would be slower flashback scenes of dinosaurs living in the prehistoric era, but apparently those kinds of scenes were just used in promotional material for Dominion – you don’t see any nature documentary-esque moments of dinosaurs living authentically in a land before time in the actual film.
There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Dinosaurs
Which brings me to another sore spot. I felt there was a serious lack of dinosaur screen time in Dominion. Obviously, they get much more screen time here than they did in the original Jurassic Park, but since this film’s plot is so tacky, it really could’ve used some more dino scenes to compensate for the outright bizarre turn of events in the main story arc.
Now, there are plenty of new species seen for the first time in the film. Theriznosaurus was amazing, as were the Dimetrodons and Quetzalcoatlus to name a few. But their screen time was so fleeting, I barely got a chance to look at them before being whisked away to the next MacGuffin.
To add insult to injury, a lot of the dino scenes take place at night or in the rain. Particularly scenes with the latest dinosaur villain, Giganotosaurus. I would’ve loved to have seen more of the Giganotosaurus, but unfortunately its scenes were woefully short and the majority of them took place during rainy night scenes. I realize one of the best scenes of the original Jurassic Park took place on a rainy night, but remember, this is not the same caliber of film no matter how badly it may want to be. In the original, the rainy night added to the atmosphere and made the danger feel more grounded and real. In Dominion, it just feels like a bad directorial decision that deprived us of getting a precious, up-close look at the dinosaurs. Again, if the franchise has devolved into a monster-of-the-week affair, so be it. But let us see the monster of the week for God’s sake! Both the quantity and quality of our time spent with the actual dinosaurs felt lacking.
So, ultimately, despite the long-running time (Dominion clocks in at just about two and a half hours), I never felt like I truly got to see a real money shot in Dominion. The final showdown and lead-up to said showdown was underwhelming and anti-climactic to say the least. I mean, it was a’ight. But given how long we’ve waited for this movie and how long the movie itself is, it should’ve left us gobsmacked. But alas, it didn’t. Unfortunately, there were plenty of glaring missed opportunities here. Many of which will probably become points of discussion among the Jurassic fandom for years to come.
Yet, I still really enjoyed myself. It’s been a few hours since the credits rolled and I’ve had time to digest what I saw. And it really bugs me just how good it was, because that makes the lackluster parts feel all the more infuriating. Say what you want about The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, or even Jurassic World – they all knew what they were and had a certain degree of consistency. So while they never rose to the same heights as the original, you couldn’t argue that they didn’t have their own identity. Granted, Fallen Kingdom was just kind of a hot mess. It also was pretty upfront that it wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it was. It never had any high points to fall from. But Dominion… there are moments it feels so close to being something great, being more than the sum of its parts. You can feel it in your bones. They had so many of the elements there to shock and awe us, but in the end, the writers simply settled on being just good enough.
And I can’t be too upset. In many respects, Trevorrow and his team did a superb job. They entertained me thoroughly. I actually did enjoy Jurassic World Dominion more than I expected. And I salute them for the respect they showed to the characters I grew up with.
I’ve outlined, and perhaps overstated the aspects of the film I take issue with, but in the immortal words of Ray Arnold: “It could’ve been worse, John. A lot worse.”